Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gov't bullying mental health patients to justify removing their lifeline benefits


Existing benefit rules mean it is not possible to legally require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving sickness benefits. Nor is it ethical.

However, senior ministers have proposed that the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.

As a testimony to how bad this idea is, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chairman of the health select committee, has responded by saying that forcing people into counselling would present “profound ethical issues”.

She urged David Cameron to “squash” the proposals amid concerns about the damage they are doing to the image of the Conservative party. She said: “Consent is a very important principle and to link some kind of compulsion to that treatment would be grossly unethical. There would be a serious risk of a doctor being challenged and taken to the GMC”.

“You would get people going to GPs having a prescription so they could demonstrate they have got treatment. Enormously wasteful of time. Far better to get on with parity of esteem.”

The first of four government pilots is already being trialled at four job centres – Durham and Tees Valley, Surrey and Sussex, Black Country and Midland Shires.

The pilot will “test whether combining talking therapy with employment support based on the “individual placement and support” model works better than the usual jobcentre or mental health support for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants”, said the Department for Work and Pensions.

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “If people are not getting access to the support they need, the government should address levels of funding for mental health services rather than putting even more pressure on those supported by benefits and not currently well enough to work.”